Friday, August 19, in case you didn’t know, is National Potato Day. Thanks to Mr. Potato Head and even Mrs. Potato Head, this vegetable enjoys more celebrity status than any of its colleagues. And because it can be served for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and enjoyed later, as a snack to crunch on, the spud earns high marks for its versatility and chameleon-like qualities. Whether you bake it, boil it, mash it, fry it, serve it as hash browns first thing in the morning or crunch on it straight from a bag late at night while watching a movie, the potato is without doubt a vegetable worth celebrating. The crew at Colchester Neighborhood Farm has been busy digging up the spuds and there is plenty of the harvest to go around. In honor of this day officially recognizing the potato for its contribution to our overall health and well-being, I give you a few more interesting facts to consider as you nibble on some French fries.
- Ever wonder who came up with the recipe for potato chips? Apparently, the idea for this now popular snack came from a passive aggressive chef working at a resort in Saratoga Springs, New York. According to potatogoodness.com, in 1853 railroad magnate Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt complained that his potatoes were cut too thick and sent them back to the kitchen. To spite his haughty guest, Chef George Crum sliced some potatoes paper thin, fried them in hot oil, salted and served them. To everyone’s surprise, Vanderbilt loved his “Saratoga Crunch Chips,” and potato chips have been popular ever since.
- The world’s largest potato chip was produced by the Pringle’s Company in Jackson, TN in 1990. It measured 23 inches by 14.5 inches.
- The suggestion that it’s not the potato but rather the stuff that you put on it that’s fattening is, unfortunately, true. Baked potatoes by themselves do not pack all that many calories; it’s the butter, sour cream, bacon and cheddar cheese we top them with that adds to our waistlines. According to idahopotatomuseum.com, the potato is about 80 percent water and 20 percent solid. An 8 ounce baked or boiled potato has only about 100 calories.
- In 1995, the potato became the first vegetable grown in space. NASA and the University of Wisconsin, Madison created the technology with the goal of feeding astronauts on long space voyages, and eventually, feeding future space colonies.
- Thomas Jefferson introduced French fries to America when he had them served at a White House Dinner.
- The average American eats about 124 pounds of potatoes per year.
- The first permanent potato patches in North America were established in 1719, most likely near Londonderry (Derry), NH, by Scotch-Irish immigrants. From there, the crop spread across the country.
- According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest potato grown was 7 pounds 1 ounce by J. East and J. Busby of Great Britain.
- The strong connection between the Irish and potatoes is directly linked to the major outbreak of potato blight, a plant disease that swept through Europe in the 1840s, wiping out the potato crop in many countries. Because the Irish working class lived largely on potatoes, when the blight reached Ireland, killing their main staple food, many poverty-stricken families were left with no choice but to struggle to survive or emigrate out of Ireland. Over the course of the famine, almost one million people died from starvation or disease. Another one million people left Ireland, mostly for Canada and the United States.
- Though they share similar names, they are not related. The sweet potato belongs in the same family as morning glories while the white potato belongs to the same group as tomatoes, tobacco, chile pepper, eggplant and the petunia.
Stop by Colchester Neigbhorhood Farm today and pick up some freshly harvested, organically grown potatoes and serve them any way you prefer….as hash browns in the morning, french fries with lunch or baked and loaded with toppings for dinner. Tell us your favorite way to enjoy the spud.